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Cultures of Copyright

Contemporary Intellectual Property


Edited By Dànielle Nicole DeVoss and Martine Courant Rife

The symbols, signs, and traces of copyright and related intellectual property laws that appear on everyday texts, objects, and artifacts have multiplied exponentially over the past 15 years. Digital spaces have revolutionized access to content and transformed the ways in which content is porous and malleable. In this volume, contributors focus on copyright as it relates to culture. The editors argue that what «counts» as property must be understood as shifting terrain deeply influenced by historical, economic, cultural, religious, and digital perspectives.
Key themes addressed include issues of how:
• Culture is framed, defined, and/or identified in conversations about intellectual property;
• The humanities and other related disciplines are implicated in intellectual property issues;
• The humanities will continue to rub up against copyright (e.g., issues of authorship, authorial agency, ownership of texts);
• Different cultures and bodies of literature approach intellectual property, and how competing dynasties and marginalized voices exist beyond the dominant U.S. copyright paradigm.
Offering a transnational and interdisciplinary perspective, Cultures of Copyright offers readers – scholars, researchers, practitioners, theorists, and others – key considerations to contemplate in terms of how we understand copyright’s past and how we chart its futures.


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Part Two: Cultures of Production


• P A R T T W O • Cultures of Production • C H A P T E R S E V E N • Permissions and Precedents: A Cautionary Tale from Art Publishing Steve Westbrook and James Ryan n this chapter, we examine the case of Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp, which maintained that exact copies of public domain works of art are not original enough to be copyrightable under U.S. law, and discuss its influence—or, rather, its striking lack of influence—on the normative practices of art publishing. Although decided in 1999, the case has had little effect on altering the perception that publishers must seek permissions from photogra- phers, museums, or related institutions in order to reproduce “their” copies of public domain artwork. In fact, the plaintiff that lost the case, Bridgeman Art Library, continues to collect permissions fees from publishers seeking to use images from its collection even though the court found that it has no legal ba- sis to do so. Given the discrepancy between court ruling and industry policy, we argue that it is less the law itself and more the institutional and ideological practices within the culture of art publishing—the misunderstandings and mis- applications of the law—that have established the most lasting, influential precedent for the proprietary treatment of images. Using our findings as a kind of cautionary tale, we explore the larger implications of this predicament for scholars across the disciplines and recommend they take the risk of not ask-...

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